The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) places various requirements on businesses for meeting the needs of people with disabilities. Since the legislation was first passed in 2005, these AODA requirements have been phased in gradually, with new regulations taking effect one at a time, over a predetermined timeline. One of the five domains covered by the AODA, “information and communication,” includes requirements for web accessibility. New (and significantly updated) websites have been obliged to meet a basic level of accessibility since 2014.
However, by 2021, these websites will need to meet a higher level of accessibility.
There are many reasons why you should be complying with the AODA and removing disability barriers from your website as soon as possible. In fact, we can come up with more than two million reasons – because that’s approximately how many people in Ontario live with disabilities! To get you started, however, we’re presenting you with four important reasons to ensure your website is as accessible as possible.
1. The most common disabilities often create a need for web accessibility.
The three most common types of disabilities in Canada are pain, mobility and flexibility – frequently, all three of these disabilities together, according to Statistics Canada’s Canadian Survey on Disability (CSD)1. All of these disabilities can increase a person’s need for web accessibility.
For example, people may have restricted use of their hands, which makes handling a mouse to click on CTA buttons difficult or impossible. Or they may need extra time to fill out forms, so having a session or a form timeout too quickly might result in a frustrating experience.
Other top disabilities among Canadians are those affecting dexterity, hearing, vision or memory. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0, an internationally recognized set of technical requirements for web accessibility, includes instructions for accommodating all of these disability types, and more, on your digital properties.
2. Several laws apply, not just this one.
The AODA is the most recent provincial law compelling organizations to accommodate people with disabilities in various areas. But there are other laws banning discrimination against people with disabilities in Ontario. The Ontario Human Rights Code protects people with disabilities – and 16 other groups – from being treated unfairly. The Canadian Human Rights Act and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms both have protections in place as well, in areas of federal jurisdiction.
Furthermore, although Ontario is the first province in Canada to pass legislation that specifically addresses web accessibility, other provinces are working on similar laws, and have their own human rights legislation in place.
Something else to be aware of: The federal government’s new Bill C-81: An Act to Ensure a Barrier-Free Canada, when it passes final reading, is expected to result in regulations for removing and preventing barriers in information and communication technologies2. Thus even if your business is not based in Ontario, you should be planning for removal of online barriers from your website.
3. People with disabilities in Ontario have spending power not to be ignored.
True, people with disabilities in Canada are under-employed – often due to a lack of awareness of the skills and abilities of job candidates with disabilities, according to Statistics Canada’s 2014 report, “Persons with Disabilities and Employment.”3 Nevertheless, it doesn’t mean people with disabilities have zero spending power.
In fact, people with disabilities have, on average, three-quarters of the wealth of people without disabilities, in spite of these attitudinal and employment barriers4. When your website is designed to be accessible, you’re more likely to attract business from people with disabilities – and this is a group that is more brand-loyal than average, according to Nielsen research.
People with disabilities also influence the spending of others, since they often dine, shop and engage in leisure activities with friends and family members. Furthermore, a report by the Conference Board of Canada concludes that people with disabilities will take over a greater percentage of the consumer market between now and 20304. It would be short-sighted to disregard the spending power of people with disabilities Ontario.
4. Ontario attracts 9.2 million visitors per year.
Almost half of all visitors to Canada come to Ontario. Many of these travellers have disabilities, coming from all over the world to visit Ontario and spend their tourist dollars. Before they come, however, they’re often researching their destinations online. What cities within the province will they visit? What hotels will they stay in? Which attractions should they check out while they’re here? When overseas travellers with disabilities are able to navigate websites without barriers, they’re going to spend more time there, instead of feeling frustrated and clicking to other websites.
When the AODA was written, the goal was to increase participation of people with disabilities in many aspects of everyday life. In order for people with disabilities to fully participate in society, it’s vital that they’re able to go online easily to gather information, make plans or conduct business just like everyone else. Web accessibility is a fundamental way to include people with disabilities before they’ve even left home.
An Innovative Solution
eSSENTIAL ACCESSIBILITY has developed a comprehensive accessibility solution to help organizations follow the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) and achieve and maintain compliance with standards and regulations. This includes integrating web compliance evaluation and remediation services with assistive technology to deliver a transformative experience for people with disabilities. Learn more about eSSENTIAL ACCESSIBILITY’s innovative solution.
- Disability in Canada: Initial Findings from the Canadian Survey on Disability Statistics Canada, 2012
- Bill C-81 Parliament of Canada, 2018
- Insights on Canadian Society: Persons with disabilities and employment Statistics Canada, 2014
- Income of People with Disabilities The Conference Board of Canada, 2018